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The MPAA: Making Cinema Irrelevant One Film at a Time

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The ratings board, collectively known as the MPAA, for a long time has severely hindered films and hurt business. They, through the inconsistency in their ratings, have called into question their relevancy.  Neither overtly nor intentionally, the self-appointed police of good taste have been responsible for the dumbing down of our culture because they segment intelligent films that wither into obscurity. Thus, studios like Marvel and filmmakers such as Michael Bay are allowed to run amuck with films that, in reality step over the line into R-rated territory but are given passes. Why? Because, they have the money behind them. Independent distributors feel the pinch because of the MPAA’s lack of consistency.

A prime example is Saving Private Ryan and an independent film titled Saint and Soldiers. In Saving Private Ryan, an intense depiction of the battle of Normandy wasn’t enough to get the film an NC-17-rating. It was, of course, directed by Steven Spielberg. The other film, Saints and Soldiers, which contains no nudity or sex and minimal violence was given an R-rating because of one scene that had minor violence to it. The scene was edited to obtain a PG-13 rating. Meanwhile, Saving Private Ryan, with all its war violence, tucked its R-rating away, safe in the knowledge no one messes with Steven Spielberg. The comedy, Scary Movie, released by Dimension Films, which was at one time owned by Walt Disney, contained “strong crude sexual humor, language, drug use and violence,” including images of ejaculation and an erect penis, but was rated R, to basically everyone’s bewilderment. By comparison, the Matt Stone/Trey Parker film Orgazmo contained “explicit sexual content and dialogue” and received an NC-17. Roger Ebert argued that the system places too much emphasis on sex while freely allowing for massive amounts of gruesome violence.  Ebert argued that the rating system is geared toward looking at trivial aspects of the film, rather than at the general theme of the film. Former MPAA chairman, Dan Glickman, disputed these claims, stating that far more films are  rated NC-17 for violence than for sex but the studios go back and re-edit them.

It’s the case that an industry standard needs to be in place where if a film has this, this and this, no matter how much money is invested in it or who is making it is rated accordingly. TV has its own rating system, but it is not the albatross that the MPAA has become. Thus, TV is producing more intelligent and adult-oriented content that the MPAA prohibits film producers from making.

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